Picture of Pastor Gettys

Sermon delivered July 13, 2002 by Pastor Donald J. Gettys

McDonald Road Seventh-day Adventist Church

McDonald, Tennessee

Biblical quotations are from the New International Version NIV unless otherwise noted. Divine pronouns and titles are capitalized.

Abraham: Perfecting the Imperfect

Genesis 20

The other day I was talking with someone about Abraham. You know, we're in a series about Abraham, and I'm enjoying this series. I love to preach about some of the great people of the Bible. And Abraham is one of the greatest. I was talking with them about Abraham and he said, "You know, Abraham had 175 years to get it all together. That is 100 more years than I have. No wonder he was such a fine saint!" I pondered that statement. That statement probably is basically true. Over my sixty some years of life, most of it as a pastor, I've observed a lot of people. Most people do get it together, and if they had a hundred more years, they'd probably get it more together. But that's not true with everybody. Not all get better as they age. Some just get more rotten. Have you seen people like that? The longer they live the more entrenched they become in their habits, their sins, their life. If they had 175 years they would be wicked to the extreme. You've seen that, haven't you. Abraham's long life was not the total reason for his sainthood. The Devil is perhaps seven thousand years old or more. Is he getting better? A better devil?

When we think of father Abraham we regard this patriarch as about as close to being a perfect human being as they come. James 2:23 And the scripture was fulfilled that says, "Abraham believed God, and it was credited to him as righteousness," and he was called God's friend. Now, that's quite a statement, isn't it. But I will tell you that God still had some work to do in perfecting this imperfect man.

Even the saints are not totally saintly all the time. Abraham even repeated the same sin years later as we will see today. But he consistently clung to God and despite the ups and despite the downs, and Abraham grew to be a Godly saint.

Have you ever messed up? You vowed, "I'm never going to do that again!" But later you found yourself repeating that same sin. Look at Genesis 20 because this the focus of our study here today. Genesis 20:1. It says that Abraham moved on, sort of like Lewis and Clark. He moved on. Abraham moved. Beware when you move. You need to be careful when you move because moves are potential pivot points to our life. Abraham went south and so did his religion. In fact, the Bible says that he pitched his tent among the heathen Philistines. Is that a good idea? Is that a good neighborhood? Is that a good place for a Christian to be? Why did he do that? Lot did that in Sodom and now Abraham goes down there to the Philistines. Look at verse 2. and there Abraham said of his wife Sarah, "She is my sister." Then Abimelech king of Gerar sent for Sarah and took her.

You might have know that he would do that. So Abraham lied. He broke the ninth Commandment which basically says, "Thou shalt not lie." Abraham is a repeat offender. Isn't he? Had he ever done this before? He lied because he was afraid of the new neighbors. He was sure these heathens had zero morals. Actually the gentile king, Abimelech was not totally unresponsive to God. Maybe your neighbors are not as bad as you think they are.

Abraham feared what he thought were extremely bad people. When we think of our neighbors as evil and immoral heathens it is hard to reach them. You probably aren't going to do very well with your neighbors. I think sometimes the neighbors are better than we give them credit for. I think we need to think of our neighbors as winnable for the kingdom of Jesus Christ.

Have you ever repeated the same sin twice, over and over again? I don't know why we do that. Look at Abraham. He made several almost identical mistakes. I heard of lady one time in her home who tripped over something and fell and hurt herself. Eventually she got over that and was up and walking again. And, lo and behold, if she didn't trip over the same thing sometime later and broke her hip. Abraham fails over the same thing that he did before. Old habits are deep, aren't they.

This story comes right after the fall of Sodom. Abraham got up one morning, he saw. in the direction of Sodom, the dark plumes of black oily smoke ascending from Sodom. And he thought, "Sodom is destroyed. I wonder if Lot made it out? I wonder if God saved him?" He didn't know at that point. He could only guess. About that time Abraham decided it was time to move on, the time to get out of here. And so he did. Again he went on just like he had back in Genesis 12. He moved down that same road toward Egypt and he settled down there among the heathens. In fact, he headed toward Egypt. That's exactly where he almost lost his wife, Sarai, 25 years before. He went South. And I think we need to avoid the circumstances that lead us into sin. If you're sinning in front of all those glossy covered magazines and you're getting tempted. Why are you standing there? You need to avoid those circumstances.

Abraham settled in Gerar on the outward fringes of the promised land. Just about as far as you could get. Some people think that this was outside the promised land. Don't hang around the edge of God's will for your life. Get totally into His will. The edge isn't very safe. Abraham was a pilgrim, and he was on the move, but the move was a bad move.

King Abimelech had a harem full of young beautiful women. All those kings did that. So, if he did, why would this lusting heathen king choose old wrinkled 90 year old Sarah? Have you ever thought about that? Why would the king do that? She was ninety years old! I thought about that. I think maybe God had regenerated Sarah's body in preparation for the birth of her first son. I think maybe that's what was going on. I don't know. Preparation for the pregnancy, and once again she was a striking head-turner. Therefore Abraham and Sarah repeat the bald-faced lie about their marriage.

Abraham has a bad problem telling the truth. His problem here is a re-occurring recurrent sin. Have you ever had to struggle with a re-occurring sin? Maybe it's alcohol, maybe it's drugs, maybe it's tobacco, maybe it's about sexual issues. After you fail, you get on your knees and feel so dirty. You ask God, "I don't like this. I hate this. Could You possibly forgive me this time?" You ashamedly ask for forgiveness only to repeat the same sin again. Now, you want to break that. God wants you to break that. Sin will eventually separate you from God, but it will not cause God to back off from you. Now, please get that very clear. It is we who leave God. It is sin that separates us from God.

When we fail God over and over in the same way we may think that God will no longer protect us, He's no longer going to bless us, He's no longer going to or even love us. He isn't going to do this any more. He's going to back off. I've heard many folk say that repeated willful sin places you outside the umbrella of God's mercy. Abraham's sin was not a sin of omission but of commission. He did it intentionally. So what was God's response? Here is what you want to look at: What did God do with Abraham? Instantly, God moved to protect Sarah. Did God back off? Quickly God spoke to the hot blooded king. Look at verse 3. "You are as good as dead!

As we relive this sad chapter let's not focus on Abraham but let's focus on God and what God does. We will see what the old Patriarch did and then observe God's reaction to his chosen servant.

Isn't it incredible that our God would still protect and bless Abraham and Sarah despite what they did? You'd expect God to back off and let them go their way. When you fall into sin over and over you might doubt that God still loves you. Actually when we fail and fail again God still blesses us. God still loves us. I've found that is true in my life. When you fall, He still loves you. He still protects you when you fall. You might fail but God is always faithful. That's what He is like. His mercies come not because we are good but because He is good. He is a God of love.

So does this mean that God winks at adultery? Not at all. God said to the king, "You are as good as dead!" That is quite serious isn't it? Actually old sex craving Abimelech had not committed adultery yet. That's the truth. God had protected lying Sarah from the heathen king. Look at Genesis 20:6. Then God said to the king: "I have kept you from sinning..." He hadn't done it yet. But the king had thought about it. He had dwelt upon it and he was as good as dead at that point. That's another thought to think about. But God had kept him from it. I wonder many times in my own life that God has kept me from falling. That God has kept you from falling. God does that. He keeps us from falling. But God is able to keep us from sin. That's what this text says. God said, "I have kept you from sinning." If He could keep Abimelech from sinning, He can keep you from sinning.

The king told God of his innocence and of how it was they who lied to him. The king told of his own clear conscience. And he said, "I have done this with a clear conscience and clean hands." When I read this sad story I am astonished at how wrong Abraham was about the Philistines. This heathen king was better than Abraham had prejudged him. Look at verse 11. Abraham replied, "I said to myself, 'There is surely no fear of God in this place, and they will kill me because of my wife.'" It seems to me that the heathen king did fear God some. And Abraham didn't.

Genesis 20:9. Then Abimelech called Abraham in and said, "What have you done to us? How have I wronged you that you have brought such great guilt upon me and my kingdom? You have done things to me that should not be done." He raked Abraham over the coals. How often the heathen tell the truth and the saints are dishonest. It's a slap in the face when the lost have to teach the saved how to be honest. Abimelech was honest, and generous in his giving. What an example.

All sin eventually becomes public. The heathen are quick to see the misbehavior of those who call themselves Christians. No wonder so many of them think that most Christians are hypocrites. They're very quick to see our mistakes. Do Christians make mistakes? Yes, we do.

God said, "You are as good as dead." The heathen king realized the guilt was not just his personally but the whole country was guilty because of what the king almost did. Verse 9. "...me and my kingdom?"... When a leader does evil the repercussion is quickly felt by the people. Because of the unchecked passions of their leader, every woman in the whole castle was sterile.

What does God think of us when we sin? I am sure He is hurt. And He is hurt badly. What does God think of Abraham? Did God reject him? Did God remove him from office? Look at verse 7. "Now return the man's wife, for he is a prophet, and he will pray for you and you will live. But if you do not return her, you may be sure that you and all yours will die." Notice what God said about Abraham: "Abraham is a prophet!" You would think He would say: "Abraham used to be my prophet. He's not any more. I'm not going to put up with this." God had not rejected his Abraham despite his repeated sin. That's amazing. David said in Psalm 103:10 God does not treat us as our sins deserve or repay us according to our iniquities. That's what kind of a God we serve.

Genesis 20 gives us a new window to view God through. Our dear God is kinder than we might think. He's more patient, more forgiving, more loving, than we might ever imagine. Let me ask a question about our story: Why is God so hard on still innocent Abimelech who had not sinned yet, and why is God so kind to guilty Abraham, who knew better? Why is this? Have you thought about that? Abraham was guilty because he knew better. Abraham had some direct revelations that Abimelech hadn't had before this. Could it be because God has a relationship with Abraham and not with Abimelech? Because God has promised to love and bless Abraham regardless of his actions?

Do you parents throw your kids out on the street when they hurt you twice in the same way? Do you divorce your mate on the first or even second offense? No. God does not divorce his children when they sin. If He did He would be childless. Because All have sinned and continue to come short- Romans 3:23. Because Christians do make mistakes. We do hurt God. And we've got to get over these mistakes. Sometimes we make mistakes repeatedly. Sometimes unknowingly.

In Romans 7:14,15 (NASB) Paul said: For we know that the Law is spiritual, but I am of flesh, sold into bondage to sin. For what I am doing, I do not understand; for I am not practicing what I would like to do, but I am doing the very thing I hate. We all stumble and fall. But like Abraham we get back up and get our eyes back on Jesus and continue to walk with God.

Does Abraham confess his sin? Is he sorry? Genesis 20:9b The king said, "you've done things to me that should not be done. What is your reason for doing this?"

In verse 11-13, Abraham actually tries to justify his lie. He said that really, in a way I sort of did tell the truth. "Honestly, I had to tell a white lie to save my life." Abraham does not really come clean does he? So who seems to be the big sinner here: Abimelech or Abraham? A lot of people would say it was Abraham because he did know better.

But notice who gets blessed: Abraham! Verse 14- Then Abimelech brought sheep and cattle and male and female slaves and gave them to Abraham, and he returned Sarah his wife to him. Sarah also received 25 pounds of pure silver. So, who gets blessed here? Abraham does. Who did the sinning here? Abraham did. What do you conclude from that? You know, the only thing I can conclude is that God continues to bless His children despite their evil behavior. Have you ever noticed that in your life?

One time I failed the Lord. I noticed that I got over my cold that I had. I thought maybe the Lord isn't going to bless me, but He did. Another time I was curt with somebody, and the Lord continued to bless me. I had a bad cut on my hand. You can almost see the scar there. I thought that isn't going to heal up very good, I just haven't performed very well. But it healed beautifully. The Lord treats us better than we deserve. Not according to our sins, but according to His mercies, according to His kindness.

David said in Psalms 69:16 (KJV) Hear me, O Lord; for Thy lovingkindness is good: turn unto me according to the multitude of Thy tender mercies. Jeremiah 31:3 I have drawn you with loving-kindness. Have you felt the drawing of a great love in your life? It's there. And if you continue to respond to that loving-kindness you are going to be drawn in to the image of Jesus Christ.

I hope you can see a glimpse of how great God is, how wonderful He really is. I hope this will make us more tolerant of those who wrong us. We need to be more forgiving. God is forgiving.

God did forgive Abraham. But there are always consequences to our sin. God did not remove the consequences. We have to suffer those consequences.

  1. Abraham's reputation in that area was badly darkened.
  2. Abraham's witness to these Philistines was ruined. How many Philistines did he convert? To bad he didn't convert the Philistines, then the Israelites wouldn't have had all those problems for all those years and Goliath would have been David's buddy.
  3. Another effect of Abraham's lie surely drove a deeper wedge between him and Sarah. Sarah possible thought, "How many times is my husband going to put me through this? He sends me off just to save his own hide. He's thinking about himself. He's not thinking about me."
  4. There is yet one more result of this recurring sin. It got into Abraham's gene pool. You think about that. If you're an alcoholic, do you know that the chances of your children becoming alcoholics is greatly increased. It gets into you genes somehow. Because when Isaac was born he had a similar weakness. In Genesis 26 Isaac went down that same road and faced that same heathen king and told that very same lie about his wife Rebekah! The same thing. There are consequences.

If you have a weakness in your life, for the sake of your kids, overcome that. You've got to break it. Jesus will help you. God can keep you from sinning. Sin hurts God and it also hurts you and our children. Never quit trying. If you fall, get up and try again. Resist sin. Jesus will give you deliverance.

God did not give up on Abraham. He will not give up on you. Try to comprehend and respond to His great love and long suffering mercy.


Hymn of Praise: #249, Praise Him! Praise Him!
Scripture: Psalm 103:8-10
Hymn of Response: #183, I Will Sing of Jesus' Love


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